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Cable Operators

MSG, TWC Stop the ‘Lin-sanity’

2/20/2012 12:01 AM Eastern

After weeks of wrangling, the
license-fee dispute between MSG Media and
Time Warner Cable that kept two regional
sports networks dark on the MSO’s systems
since Jan. 1 has been resolved.

The new agreement, struck late Friday
(Feb. 17), ended the 48-day impasse and
made that evening’s New York Knicks-New
Orleans Hornets telecast on MSG available
to Time Warner Cable subscribers. Deal
terms, which were still being finalized,
could not be ascertained by press time.

MSG and sister service MSG Plus had remained
dark on Time Warner Cable systems
in 2012 after the parties couldn’t reach
a new deal and the RSNs pulled their signals
on Jan. 1 from the nation’s No. 2 cable
operator, which counts some 2.3 million
subscribers in the state, including 1.1 million
in New York City.

Between them, MSG and MSG Plus hold
local TV rights to the National Basketball
Association’s Knicks and a quartet of
National Hockey League franchises: the
New York Rangers, New York Islanders, New
Jersey Devils and Buffalo Sabres.

SIDES HADN’T BEEN TALKING

The MSO and MSG Media apparently
hadn’t had any meaningful conversation
since late last year until Feb. 13, when
TWC chairman and CEO Glenn Britt and
Cablevision president and CEO James
Dolan met. Dolan also serves as executive
chairman of MSG Media, whose holdings
include the RSNs, the Knicks and the
Rangers. MSG Media was spun off from
Cablevision last February.

The New York Times reported that a settlement
had been urged by New York State
Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, with
Gov. Andrew Cuomo intervening last Thursday
and Friday with Dolan and Britt.

In a statement issued last Friday afternoon,
Schneiderman said: “Our office has
worked diligently with Time Warner Cable
and MSG Networks over the last month to
bring about a resolution to their dispute. We
are pleased that both parties have reached
an agreement that will finally allow Knicks,
Rangers and Sabres fans to enjoy the rest of
this season’s games.”

Added Cuomo, also in a statement: “I
applaud both Mr. Dolan and Mr. Britt and
their companies. I thank them for being responsive
to the needs of New Yorkers.”

Pressure had been ratcheted upon the
programmer and distributor for the week
or so prior to the settlement, as New York
Knicks point guard Jeremy Lin became
an international “Linsation,” leading the
Knicks on a seven-game winning streak and
stoking MSG ratings to season highs during
each of its last three telecasts through
Feb. 15.

Time Warner Cable had claimed that an
agreement calling for a 6.5% increase in
monthly subscriber fees had
been reached in early December,
before MSG upped its ask
to a 53% hike. MSG had maintained
those rat ios were a
“mischaracterization.”

SNL Kagan estimates that
MSG draws a monthly subscriber
license fee of $2.48,
while pegging MSG Plus’s take
at $2.17.

Time Warner Cable and
MSG Media didn’t respond to
requests for comment.

RATINGS SLAM DUNK

With the “Linfatuation” in full
court press mode, MSG’s Feb.
15 telecast of the Knicks’ 100-
85 blowout of the Sacramento
Kings marked its third consecutive
season-high rating,
dunking a 5.78 Nielsen household
rating, which translates
to 427,015 households in the
New York DMA, according to
Nielsen data.

That delivery, sans any
Nielsen contribut ion from
Time Warner Cable homes,
ranked as the highest-rated
Knicks game on MSG since
Carmelo Anthony’s debut on
Feb. 23, 2011, netted a 6.75
household rating and 507,285
households.

Through six games in which
Lin has been the starter — all
Knicks wins — the team’s average
household rat ing on
MSG increased 109%, to a 3.79
rat ing and 279,998 households,
compared to the previous
20 games, when the RSN
averaged a 1.81 and 133,719
households. The winning streak
also spurred a 69% increase in the average
season-to-date household rating, compared
to the first 26 games on MSG Network last
season: a 2.27 compared with a 1.34 and
167,703 households against 100,705 households.

Over those six games, MSG recorded a
67% increase over the average 2011-12 season-
to-date household rating — a 3.39 mark
versus a. 2.13, with 279,998 households
compared with 167,703.

September